‘Farming for dissent’: The strategy that helped Reed Hastings turn Netflix into a $240 bn company

‘Farming for dissent’: The strategy that helped Reed Hastings turn Netflix into a $240 bn company
‘Farming for dissent’: The strategy that helped Reed Hastings turn Netflix into a $240 bn company

Netflix Founder and Executive Chairman Reed Hastings in a recent podcast shared the strategy that helped him turn Netflix into the $240 billion behemoth it is now.

Good leaders never miss critical feedback, Hastings told entrepreneur Tim Ferriss in the podcast.

I have called it “Farming for dissent.”

“If you’re a leader, it’s important to farm for dissent, because it’s not normal to disagree with your boss, right? We learn deference,” Hastings said, adding that employees must occasionally be “willing to argue” with their bosses, an aspect which is essential to nurture innovation.

“Because it’s difficult, emotionally, in most companies to disagree with your manager, we call it farming for dissent,” he said.

Hastings, who served as Netflix’s CEO for more than two decades before becoming chairman in 2023, said he would once a year ask “50 top executives” to “write down what would be different” if they were in charge of the company.

The learnings helped him strategy better. “We make everyone (submit a rating), 10 to -10, whether they think it’s a smart idea.”

Hastings also cited Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s process to read bad reviews from Amazon customers to help build “a culture of high standards” at the company.

Bezos advised listening to critics and thoughtfully deciding if they made a point. Hastings said the failed attempt in 2011 to rebrand the company’s DVD-by-mail service as a separate company called Qwickster inspired him to go for critical feedback.

The decision was stonewalled by customers and the stock took hit, forcing Hastings to apologize and reverse the decision.

That episode, which he calls his “favorite failure” of his career, helped him to ask for more input before taking big calls.

 
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